[Sinn Fein]

5 November 1997

Ostrich-like attitude to drugs

The alarm and surprise expressed in many quarters regarding the recent report from the EU Lisbon-based monitoring agency on drugs, reflects an ``ostrich-like - head in the sand'' attitude to this problem by successive governments, according to Sinn Fein's Seán Crowe. The report states that the amount of drug use among teenagers in Ireland is unrivalled in Europe.

Mr Crowe said:

``I cannot understand the surprise being expressed at this European Union report on drug abuse.The drugs epidemic has been with us for years now with establishment politicians paying lip service to this growing problem.

``Many are shocked at the section of the EU report which highlights the number of school children particularly in working class areas taking drugs. Unfortunately this in reality mirrors the attention been given by drug dealers to this group and reflects the widespread hold this problem has on many communities.

``In Dublin, community activists have warned that for young people to be exposed to drug abuse on a daily basis, to the extent that it becomes a part of everyday life around them, significantly increases the risk of them becoming involved in drug abuse.

``What needs to be addressed in the light of this report is how was it allowed to get such a hold on working-class communities and why didn't those in authority do something to stop it.

``Virtually no town or village in Ireland has escaped the drugs scourge with cannabis and ecstasy freely available

``An Eastern Health Board report in 1994 profiled the problem drug user in Dublin as young, poorly educated, unemployed, male, living in a deprived area and using heroin. This government needs to tackle problem head on. The much lauded co-ordinated approach of the authorities response to the drugs epidemic, the combining of statutory agencies, voluntary groups and community activists has been fraught with problems. The simple lesson has yet to be learned. Communities active against the drugs menace need to be supported not vilified.

``Expense is always used as an excuse for inaction, for not developing support structures for young people, their families and their communities, but a failure to do so will result in far greater costs in terms of both finance and social costs in dealing with the results when things go wrong.

Mr Crowe added:

``The latest surprise and alarm is probably more about the effect this cancerous problem is beginning to have on middle class areas who are beginning to be effected by this menace than anything new in this EU report.''

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